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January 23, 2008



These pictures are great!

I agree that self-pronouncing features are annoying. While some may like them it drives me crazy when I am reading.


Wow. Now that is some bold type. Thanks for the review Mark!

The full yap has always fascinated me. I've never owned or seen one in person...but I think it's cool.

J. Mark Bertrand

Matt -- I'm glad you like the pictures. I've just started hosting them at Flickr, so when you click on the ones at the bottom (and all future ones), you can see much larger resolution images than before. My shortcomings as a photographer will be highlighted, but readers will be able to get much better detail than before.

Paul -- I loved the look of full yapp, but when I first experienced it I was a little thrown. Access to the page is a little different, since that lip of leather is in the way. Once I got used to it, though, I was hooked.


Your "shortcomings" as a photographer are far from obvious Mark, I have some experience, access to over the top tools, and I would be hard pressed to do any better. I was happy to link to you at Flickr!

J. Mark Bertrand

You're too kind, Brian. :)


Will have to check one of the full yaps out one day...

You're doing a wonderful job with this site. Keep up the great work.


Just some quick feedback; I much prefer your links to flickr over your previous format.


A note on the Longprimer vs. the Brevier Blackface: My wife was kind enough the purchase a Longprimer for me for Christmas this year (I had had "any Oxford Reference from Allan" on my wish list for a long time), and, while it's a superb Bible, I wish I had looked more carefully at the text samples on Allan's web site. Aside from not minding self-pronouncing text, I really prefer having the English words added by the KJV translators in italics, which the Longprimer doesn't have but, I believe, the Blackface does.

The Bible that started my collection (now ~125?) a few years back was a used Oxford Garnet plain-text KJV found in a bookstore. It has a leather-lined goatskin cover described as "Marrakesh Persian - Nylon Sewn" on the inside and, in spite of a sad "bald" patch in one corner and a few permanent indentations, is quite handsome. As I began reading from the bible, however, I felt something was missing, which I soon realized was the lack of italics for the added words. I'd never seen a KJV without this, so I took it for granted that the italics would always be there. Apparently, however, Oxford has had more than one KJV printing without this feature.

Which, if course, won't be an issue for most. I don't mean to promote a need for the italics; rather, it just illustrates the need to be careful fo the details when shopping.

James Thompson


Thanks for your comments. I may in fact purchase this Bible after reading your comments and those of Nathan, who indicated the Longprimer (my original leanings) doesn't use italics for "added" words. I'm sort of "old school" and appreciate that characteristic too. Can you confirm that the Brevier Blackface italicizes added words? And since my eyes are aging the blackface type might not be such a bother; font size and readability are my main concerns now-a-days.

J. Mark Bertrand

James -- I just double-checked and it appears that the Brevier Blackface does italicize the words the translators supplied.

Kevin Maguire

James, Allans also do a Brevier Clarendon Reference Bible kjv which is the same size as the Blackface and the translaters additional words are in italic.This is a very nice Bible and I find the text very easy to read ,my sight is not what it once was but I have no problem with this one.Just to fill you in, on the day that I bought this Bible I had both the blackface and the clarendon in my hand and the clarendon was easyier to read.I think the difference is that there is slightly more of a space between the lines. As Mark says the black text is very very dark and with the white paper and the close spacing the text is not that easy read. On the day that I made my decision other people that were with me felt the same,and I would have been one of those people who would have always went for a dark text.

Kevin Maguire

James, Allans also do a Brevier Clarendon Reference Bible kjv which is the same size as the Blackface and the translaters additional words are in italic.This is a very nice Bible and I find the text very easy to read ,my sight is not what it once was but I have no problem with this one.Just to fill you in, on the day that I bought this Bible I had both the blackface and the clarendon in my hand and the clarendon was easyier to read.I think the difference is that there is slightly more of a space between the lines. As Mark says the black text is very very dark and with the white paper and the close spacing the text is not that easy read. On the day that I made my decision other people that were with me felt the same,and I would have been one of those people who would have always went for a dark text.

Scott Davis

Have you any opinions on the Holman Christian Standard Bible? I have been an ESV freak for years, but the HCSB has certainly gotten my attention with its fresh renderings of the original languages and it's aesthetic beauty in its type and format. I find myself going back and forth between the two translations now.

Any idea if R.L. Allans is considering a HCSB in one of their premier bindings?

Great blogsite. Glad I ran across it. God bless!

Scott Davis, RN


I was very much interested in the Long Primer. Is there a site for the U.S? I have bought several Bibles and never seem to be satisfied. Thanks -Kevin



I have the Longprimer and I love it, there is only one place I know that you can order R L Allen's in the US, EvangelicalBible.com. I ordered mine through R L Allen's and I prefer to deal with them directly, they are a breeze to work with. I checked the pricing and it's exactly the same when ordering direct from Allen's or through Evangelical Bible, they both include cost of shipping in the price, so you won't save any money ordering with the US distributor. The shipping method R L Allen uses is exceptionally fast, I received my order in less than a week here in Arizona.

Kenneth Dismukes

I just got the Blackface in the mail today direct from R.L. Allan. I sent the Longprimer back to exchange it for the Blackface, because some pages in the Longprimer were printed more faintly than others. The difference was quite noticeable on one particular faintly printed page which faced a more darkly printed page. I have now had the Blackface, Longprimer, and Clarendon. I still have the Clarendon.

The highland goatskin full yapp binding is the best I have ever seen in about 35 years of buying a number of Bibles. R.L. Allan's customer service is also excellent. They ship by airmail from Scotland and it arrives in about a week.

Unfortunately the print quality on this Blackface is also not that great. Some pages are printed more faintly than others, sometimes there is even a contrast on the same page. It clearly says on the front page that it is the Blackface, but it's hard to believe it's the same Bible that was reviewed above. Definitely no astronauts can read this one. The type is thinner and generally less dark than the Clarendon (though on some pages it might be about equally dark). The Blackface font also appears to me to be slightly smaller than the Clarendon. The Blackface gets 26 verses on the first page of Genesis while the Clarendon gets 22 verses. I was hoping the Blackface would be bolder and darker than the Clarendon, based on the review above and the review of the Clarendon.

I'm not familiar with modern printing technology. Do modern Bible printers typically run their machines until they are almost out of toner before replacing it, or is there some other explanation? Is it the India paper that poses a special challenge? It bothers me that they can't get this right. This seems to be true of most all Bibles in general that I have bought through the years. It bothers me even more when this kind of print quality is put into a very expensive, quality binding like this one. Part of the purpose of my comments is to inspire them to greater quality control over their printing, since they already make the best bindings in the world.

The Clarendon I received had by far the best print quality, compared to the Longprimer and Blackface. I am quite satisfied with it.

The Blackface and Clarendon were both printed in the Netherlands by the same company. I think the Longprimer was printed in England.

I'm probably not going to send the Blackface back. It costs about $25 to send it back and I'm afraid I would just get another one that is just as bad or worse in terms of print quality.

Mark, you said "When I think that someone had to go through the entire Bible spelling all the proper names phonetically, I get a headache." I looked inside on page 4 and found that the man who did this was Henry A. Redpath. This man is perhaps best known for being a co-author of the Concordance to the Septuagint. I did a bit of searching and found a book excerpt (from History of New Testament Research) which stated that Redpath lived 1848-1908. This same reference stated that Edwin Hatch (1835-1889) died when he was only halfway through doing the Concordance, and that Redpath finished the other half. The pronunciations in the Blackface don't bother me. Not even the pronunciation for Jesus.

The Blackface is the only one of the three Bibles I received that has the cyclopedic concordance, with a number of black and white photographs. My version of the Clarendon did not have this, but only a concordance. Allan's website also states that the Clarendon has a concordance, without mentioning a cyclopedic concordance.

One other interesting feature of the Blackface is that it counts all the chapters of the Bible in sequential order from Genesis to Revelation, for example, showing that the 1st chapter of Matthew is the 930th chapter in the Bible, and showing that the 22nd chapter of Revelation is the 1189th chapter in the Bible.

Jeff Seymour

Kenneth, only the Clarendon bibles with a "C" after their number have the cyclopedic concordance. All of the Blackface have it, the Longprimer doesn't.

Evagelist Brian McClurg

I just got a new one and they have improved by leaps and bounds. Now they have a perfect tone of ink, notebook lined pages in the back, and the full and I mean full yapp Leather in (highland goatskin). This Bible is outstanding compared to the old blackface I have. They went the extra mile or even two with quality. The highland goatskin now is better than before, Its evident they treat it with special oils now when they didn't before. I have their new Long primer too and it does not seem to line up to this Bible. Plus the Paper (India) has been improved to the point it feels like silk rather than paper (silk to the Blind mans touch). Really it would fool somebody by just the touch. Once again I'm not bragging but I've had just about all top quality KJV Bibles you can find and have seen, felt, and proved there endurance and this one here, I believe will be a long lasting enduring Bible. As I have said before the Champ still is Local Church Bible Publishers as for as taking a beating and still shine as supreme. Oh Mark remember you said you got Cape Levant Morocco leather which believe it or not is a very tough leather but now you can get it in highland or Cape Levant Morocco. Either one is a great Leather but I prefer the Highland Goat because the yapp covers more.
God Bless


A comment about the printing of the R. L. Allan's Oxford Brevier Blackface Reference Edition... I'm a graphic designer and have had the opportunity of working for a printing company that I believe uses printing presses similar to what RL Allan would have. If I am correct, Allen (or whoever is printing this specific Bible) uses a sheet fed press which does not use toner like a laser printer. It uses ink. Each sheet is fed through the press and ink rolls onto the paper from a plate which gets "inked" ... it's pretty neat... the "technology" is very old and takes a good press operator to keep even ink coverage on every page. With these Bibles you really are getting a work of art, each one will be different.


Kenneth Dismukes

Thanks, Howie, for helping me understand how the printing process works for Bibles.

About 5 years ago, I was in the Prestonwood Baptist book store. They had about 7 copies of the Thomas Nelson Signature NKJV and they were boxed in such a way that I could examine each one. I bought the only one that I thought had a fairly decent (though not perfect) print job, in terms of faintness of print here and there. It would be nice to find a manufacturer who consistently combines a very high quality print job with a very high quality binding.


Well, I ordered the "R. L. Allan's Oxford Brevier Blackface Reference Edition" a week ago and now I have it. It's just sitting there on my desk with its back turned to me. The Leather Smells great. The first thing I did after carefully opening the box was smell it. My family raised goats when I was little and Goat Skin Leather smells much different than Goat hair. But as weird as it sounds I like each smell. Now the appearance of this bible brings back to memory any time I saw an older man with his Bible. I'm not sure if it's because I saw a lot of old men reading Bibles that looked like this or because "modern" Bibles look nothing like this thing. The Type, for a Bible on the smaller side, is pretty readable. The type size is good, however I would still like something even bolder and darker. I noticed the red dye under the Gold on the page edges has some excessive bleeding into the page, but it sorta adds a bit of "character" or "value" to this Bible. I made a comment above about how the printing happens and this Bible has many many imperfect areas of type where the ink looks "cracked" or dark in some areas and lighter in others. I know I'm more critical of these types of things since I create files for printing and work for a printing company so others may not notice what I have. My final thoughts are that this is a great Bible. And it smells good too!



Seems to be exactly what I want: sawn-binding, handy size, old-looking typeface, self-pronouncing text (I do like it!). Will probably order it as soon as I can (or when I think I can) afford it. But what about paper (it's India one, right?)? Is it as thin as in Pitt-Minion Reference Bibles?

robert anderson

while I waiting for my Allan's ESV1 BR Brown in highland goatskin to arrive from Scotland, I looked at the "R. L. Allan's" Oxford Brevier Blackface Reference Edition Bible in the bookstore. It is a nice Bible. I found the print to be nice and dark, but a little heavy after reading in the Bible, as I sipped on my cappuccino. The leather was nice enough and the Bible seemed to be well bound, but it was by for not the nicest Bible that I have ever held....and I do have other Oxford Bibles and Cambridge Bibles. Don't get me wrong, it is a nice Bible, but I just wasn't overly impressed. The goatskin IS NOT the same quality as the goatskin used on my Allan's ESV1 BR. In fact, after looking at the "Allan's" Oxford Brevier Blackface Reference Edition Bible, I was having second thought about the Allan's ESV 1BR that I had ordered from Scotland. BUT, when my Allan's ESV1 arrived, it met my expectations and exceeded them. It is by far the nicest bound Bible that I have ever held in my hands. WOW! is all I can say. It is a little pricey, but it is a beautiful Bible. It would make a very nice gift.

robert anderson

Did I say how soft and supple the goarskin binding is on the Allan's ESV1 BR? This Bible has the softest goatskin i have ever felt. The "R. L. Allan's" Oxford Brevier Blackface Reference Edition Bible nor the Cambridge Pitt-Minion have that same soft highland goatskin leather.

Michael Swoveland

I just bought a copy of the Oxford Brevier Blackface that was published by Oxford University Press in Great Britain, it is NOT an Allan's edition. I do not believe these are in print any longer, at least I can't find it in the current Oxford catalog or on Amazon.com. It comes in a red box that has an engraving of Oxford University as it looked in the 1700s. I believe this one was printed in 1996.

It is bound in black French Morocco leather that is suprisingly soft, in fact it is softer than a Cambridge Concord that I have in calfskin. I am also suprised that such a small Bible will lay open at any point from Genesis 1 to the maps at the back, something my Cambridge Concord would never do. It also has the (very cool) Cyclopedic Concordance in the back.

While it is a very handy size, and the size of the Scripture text is fine, many of the notes and cross references are very small and hard to read and I have better than 20/20 vision. For someone with less than perfect eyesight the type in this Bible may be too small to be useful. One more word on the type, it is very old fashioned looking. To me it looks like something you would have found it you had bought a new Bible in about 1890-1910, I find this quaint and pleasant, but if you like a more modern typeface this Bible may not be for you.

Michael Freeman

I just received a new copy of the Allan 20 Brevier Blackface Edition. I ordered it from evangelicalbible.com which included Fedex ground shipping in the current pricing. Fedex unfortunately made a mistake in where they shipped it to, so I let evangelicalbible.com know at about 0900 on Saturday morning. They responded immediately with a return e-mail looking for the issue. On Saturday, I couldn't have been more satisfied. The problem was addressed and corrected within an hour or two once Fedex realized where they sent the package.

Once again I am in awe at a Bible. I could not be happier in a bound copy of the Word. The Allan 20 cover has a tighter grain than my Clarendon 5 (obviously the difference between a highland goatskin and a natural goatskin; I find the tighter grain is reflective of other goatskin bibles on the market (Cambridge) where the large grain of the natural goatskin stands out in a class of it's own). It has two ribbon markers which is unclear in the photos and descriptions that I have reviewed. The ribbon markers are also wider than the Clarendon 5 which is a bonus I didn't expect. The Allan 20 also has the lined noted pages at the rear that I feared would not be in the addition with the cyclopedia, also a huge bonus not clear in the description from Allan (of course if I read more closely to the comments above I'd have known). The print is equal throughout the bible and is only as dark as my Clarendon, so at a guess I would say that the comments of this board are making an impact on publishers. The binding is perfect with the beginning and end signatures overcasted. I would assume that this Allan's version would past my "wind tunnel" test if I was so inclined to be that forgetfull again.

I find that I will be at odds with myself as to which edition I will carry as "my Bible".

Alan Young

Oxford University press actually re-released this edition in the UK
mainstream about 5 years ago in either black French Morocco or light
brown imitation leather-flex. It has now disappeared off the radar
except via Allan's edition. The Oxford was sold simply as 'The Oxford
reference Bible, Authorized King James Version'. I just found the
extent of self-pronouncing text way too much to the point of being
irritating ! I much prefer the the Oxford Brevier Clarendon. One more
thing, the Blackface has centre references which differ from the
'usual' Cambridge/Oxford refs. They are 'chain references' and often
refer the reader to the R.V. (Revised version)and 'best manuscripts',
which many KJV folks may not like.

Michael S. Swoveland

I have a small collection of "better quality" Bibles, but there has been one glaring empty slot in that collection....an R. L. Allan & Sons edition.

Being an "old school traditionalist" as Mark so graciously puts it, although one with pretty good eyesight, I tend to like these old Oxford settings. I ruled out a Longprimer right away because to me the italic words are important, that left the Brevier Blackface and the Brevier Clarendon. I already have a (non-Allans) Blackface edition so at first I was leaning towards the Clarendon. However, as time went by I found myself wringing my hands over which to buy. Either way I knew it would be the brown one, there just aren't enough brown Bibles in the world and I have a soft spot for them. Sure the Clarendon was the logical choice, but for some reason I really wanted the Blackface.

After reading Mark's reviews again this weekend and looking at all of the photos out there, today I ordered the Brevier Blackface in brown Highland Goatskin (Allan's # 20BR). In a few days I'll have my first Allan's Bible and my first Bible with full yapp covers. I'll be sure to check back in and let you all know what I think of both of those things when it get here.

Michael S. Swoveland

I received this item yesterday and it is my first Bible by R. L. Allan & Sons. Until I held this Bible in my hands I had no idea what soft leather was, the Highland goatskin is nothing short of amazing, it has an almost liquid quality about it. When you hold this Bible in your hands there can be no mistake, this is a thing of rare quality. The full yapp covers add to the experience of holding this Bible as does the wonderful smell of the goatskin. In fact everything about this Bible, down to the smallest detail bespeaks quality. It is printed on acid free paper that feels very good in the hand, the ribbon markers (there are two of them) are as soft as any I have seen and catch and reflect light is a neat way.

The vintage style of type used adds to the overall charm of this edition. My impression is that an average Victorian Englishman would have felt very much at home with this Bible. From the binding to the typeface to the fascinating (and very useful) Cyclopedic Concordance, everything about this Bible harkens back to the taste and style of a bygone age.

While this Bible is a thing of quality, I do not think it should be called a "luxury Bible." There is not the slightest hint of it being ostentatious, it lacks any unnecessary ornamentation. While unpretentious it does stand out, but it stands out for all of the right reasons.


Michael, good post. I recently received my brown goatskin brevier clarendon and like you I think mine is a thing of rare understated beauty in our all too throwaway world. I dithered between it and the blackface but eventually the lack of self-pronouncing text won me over to the clarendon. the text is black enough for me.

Thistoo is a good quality, but not perfect bible (the gilding is somewhat idiosyncratic but you know what? I even like that!)

Michael S. Swoveland

Gary, I came ever so close to getting the Clarendon and in fact I may get one at some point. I like the idea of chapter introductions that the Clarendon has. I think these Brevier Bibles are just about the perfect size for both home reading and church use. Mine got it's first taste of church tonight and works well there. It has just enough references and helps to be useful (I always want more), but not so many that it is bulky.

Another Bible that I carry to church a lot is a Cambridge Concord (published by Trinitarian Bible Society). I'd say that the Brevier is at the small end of the "just right" size range, while the Concord is at the large end of that "just right" range.

One problem Mark has created for me with this blog and all of the nice Bibles I have bought as a result of what I have read here is the dilemma I face three times a week as to which Bible I should carry to church. While my wife is picking just the right shoes to go with her dress, I am off picking a Bible. I'll know I am in deep trouble the first time it takes me longer than her to pick :-)

Winston E. Waldemayer, III


I decided to take an ol' look at the Brevier Blackface review on here because I am very interested in buying one in the near future and was sure you had some pics showing the typeface, etc. I noticed that your track back links are now ads for prescription drugs. Just thought you might want to know that someone was putting these links on your site. I know you are not pushing pills AND bibles. :)

Michael R.

Does this one include the Epistle Dedicatory, or the Translators to the Reader? Are there any Allan Bibles that include the Translators to the Reader?

Michael R.

"I just found the
extent of self-pronouncing text way too much to the point of being
irritating ! I much prefer the the Oxford Brevier Clarendon. One more
thing, the Blackface has centre references which differ from the
'usual' Cambridge/Oxford refs. They are 'chain references' and often
refer the reader to the R.V. (Revised version)and 'best manuscripts',
which many KJV folks may not like."

Thank you very much! That would INDEED annoy me.


Yeah, what's up with the self-pronouncing text is so many of the old KJV layouts? What were they thinking? It is SOOOO distracting. And they aren't even correct pronunciations! OK, maybe they got Jerusalem right.


Hello everyone, i have read all of the comments and i am battling between getting the Blackface or the Longprimer, what has put me off the longprimer is that there are no italicised words, but i hear that the blackface doesnt have lined paper at the back to take notes whereas the longprimer does, is this true? this is a deciding factor for me... i look forward to hearing from someone.


John Owlett

Hi Craig,


According to its website, Allan will have 32 pages of lined writing paper in the new printing of the Longprimer. I noticed this morning that the estimated time of availability has just changed from "mid January" to "mid/late January". I shall have to wait a little longer for my new large-print KJV.


The entry for the Brevier Blackface does not mention any lined writing paper.

John Owlett

Hi Craig, two further thoughts.


According to this web page, the Brevier Blackface is due to be reprinted in April. Why don't you send Allan's an e-mail to ask whether this reprinting will have lined writing paper at the back?


This wide-margin edition of the Brevier Clarendon text has the traditional italicized words and 32 pages of lined writing paper, though it is not bound in goatskin with art gilt edges. If you intend to make copious notes in your Bible, it may be nearly ideal for you. The Brevier Clarendon text is the same size (8/9 point) as the Brevier Blackface; it does not have self-pronouncing text (good) and I understand its typeface is lower in contrast.

Andy Chulka

Exactly a week after I placed my order with evangelicalbible.com, I received my very first Allan Bible: an Allan-Oxford Brevier Blackface Highland Goatskin in chocolate brown to be exact.

After looking through this Bible and reading several chapters out of Numbers, Psalms and Romans (part of my reading plan); I was very pleased with the readability and the evenness of the blackface text. The India paper is wonderful and quite opaque. I love the pronunciation marks and the overall vintage look of the Bible, and that is exactly what I was looking for. The binding is superb and looks very solid; it even has the overcastting in Genesis.

The study material in the back of this Bible is amazing. The cyclopedic concordance is fantastic; it puts the regular concordances that are found in modern Bibles to shame! The concordance also includes several charts and photographs that almost make this a mini-study Bible. The one thing that I was surprised by in this edition is the lack of the lined note pages in the back. A friend of mine has the black edition and he has the lined pages in his, but mine does not, not a “deal breaker” as they say! It does have the Oxford color maps, however.

I do have to say that I was expecting the highland (natural) goatskin to be a little more supple, but I imagine that it will soften up over time, it is a beautiful color and the smell is terrific!!!

The NKJV is my translation of choice with the ESV as a close second, but I grew up on the KJV and will enjoy using this edition in my daily reading and making it a part of my regular study time as well. I would love to have a NKJV in an edition like this!!!

Thank you Allan for making such a fantastic edition of God’s Word, and thank you evangelicalbible.com for such great service! Oh, and thank you Mark Bertrand for your review of this Bible that helped me with making my decision!

Isaiah 40:8


I just received this bible in the mail today from Glasgow. The 20BR is a beautiful bible. The highland goatskin is slightly stiffer than that on my ESVR1T but I imagine it will soften with use. The smell is fantastic! The paper is biter than that i my ESVR1T though there is slight variances in the intensity of the imprinting. Over all I am extremely satisfied with this bible. I think I have a new favorite carry-round bible!

RK DiPeri


I just got the Allan Brevier Blackface edition. I am very disappointed in it. And quite surprised your review was so far off the mark. The type is not blacker than any other type in any other Bible. And the font is small. These two factors are huge red flags for someone with slightly poor vision like me.
I have the Brevier Clarendon. The type is darker, and the font is larger. Dont see how you missed this. Im sending it back.

RK Diperi

Fernando Villegas

RK, keep in mind this review is from three years ago, and apparently he had the Bible some time before that. Consider the possibility that it may not be so much that he "missed" something as that perhaps the edition has changed since over the years.

Stephen Calvert

Mark, I just ordered one of these and I'm really looking forward to getting it. I have an ESV Study Bible in calfskin and love it but I always seem to go back to the King James. The poetic style is hard to beat in my opinion. Thanks for do such a great job reviewing these bibles. You are to be commended for providing such a great service to the public.

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  • J. Mark Bertrand is the author of Back on Murder, Pattern of Wounds, and the forthcoming Nothing to Hide, crime novels featuring Houston homicide detective Roland March. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston and lived in the city for fifteen years. After one hurricane too many, he and his wife moved to South Dakota. Mark has been arrested for a crime he didn't commit, was the foreman of a hung jury in Houston, and after relocating served on the jury that acquitted Vinnie Jones of assault. In 1972, he won an honorable mention in a child modeling contest, but pursued writing instead.

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